Crimson Red: Unconditional Love
by Pichui
Partridge Publishing Singapore

"How is it my fault that food and I have a special relationship going? My sister has always been the opposite."

Pichui effectively challenges the reader with sixty-three succinct chapters through which to ponder why the word love has been confined to such a narrow spectrum by conventional societies. As the book opens, Tina, nicknamed Bunz, the elder sister in a Malaysian family, bathes her pet on a hot Sunday afternoon, comparing her heavy-set self to her conventionally attractive sister. She deftly weaves in incidences of fat oppression, including her experience of barbed remarks from her family.

Finally, a man sticks up for her, saying they should stop mocking her and respect her. Bunz laughs, because, for the first time, she feels cared for, loved, and "on cloud nine." Her life is about to start a "never-ending somersault." Her uncle dies in Australia, and this man—her sister's boss and someone her sister likes—offers to go with her. He offers to float her financially, in addition to supporting her emotionally. The tickets he gets them are even in business class.

Pichui carefully depicts a relationship growing slowly. With a hug, the offer of cookies, and the slowing of strides in an airport walk, the relationship gradually becomes physical. The author charts emotions seamlessly, attaching them to the smallest detail, riveting the reader to the unfolding drama. Pichui skillfully conveys how as Joe takes control, Tina (as he prefers to call her) becomes comfortable with herself. As they land in Australia, Pichui creates a metaphor of a promised yet previously off-limits land for Tina. Joe even books them into separate rooms in a hotel. As Pichui shows, the possibility of Tina being a true woman emerges at last. Any reader who has felt unloved by society's terms will keep turning the pages, hoping the plot resolves in a satisfying manner.

A 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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